The Nigerian Senate has passed a bill that seeks to protect students in tertiary institutions in the country after it passed the third reading.
The bill entitled “A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress sexual harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for matters connected therewith, Bill, 2020” was passed on Tuesday.
It was sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie-Omo Agege (Delta Central) and co-sponsored by 105 other senators.
The bill equally criminalises the act of neglect or failure of administrative heads of tertiary educational institutions to address complaints of sexual harassment within a specified period.
It also creates a strict liability offence by removing mutual consent as a defence in the prosecution of sexual harassment cases in tertiary educational institutions and maintain the fiduciary relationship that exists between educators and students.
The bill states that any person who commits the offences of sexual harassment of students shall be sentenced to 14 years imprisonment or fined N5 million or both.
The proposed law which was reintroduced in the Senate on October 9 also proposes 14 years jail term for offenders.
This is coming after the consideration of the report of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters – which was in charge of reviewing the bill and organising a public hearing on the law.
Chairman of the committee, Bamidele Opeyemi, said any form of sexual harassment is an offence. And mutual consent as a defence will no longer be tolerated in prosecution of sexual harassment cases in higher educational institution.
He added that “this bill seeks to tame the hydra-headed monster in the name of sexual harassment which has become a pandemic in our tertiary institutions.”
In his remark, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said “We have to protect our daughters, sisters, mothers from sexual predators. From the recommendations, we wanted a fair means of offence that somebody is accused of.
“We want tertiary institutions to be safe and peaceful learning environment for everyone,” he said.